Stellastarr "S/T"

Reviewed by: Micheal Schinke

  This is the thing, I work at a Best Buy in Michigan. Given that fact, you can understand that it is really difficult for me to find anything interesting to listen to considering the majority of my customers come in looking for whatever the new "Hot" CD is that week. So when a name I don't recognize pops up a couple of times, I check it out. The first impression I got of Stellastar came from thier website. They had a resource on their I have seen available on a couple of sites (namely The Stills) but I stil dont see often enough, where they allow you to preview the record. Now when I say preview I dont mean little 15 second clips, I mean a real preview, like the whole damn thing! Granted the qualities "Not so good,Al." but you can understand the reasons for that. Very cool, and important in my opinion because it shows the value in letting people hear you and not just telling them to buy the CD and figuire it out later.

  Given that, and after having listened to the record(yes, I know it's CD but I call them all records, so get past it) I am not at all unsatisfied with my choice to purchase it. However, that does not mean the album is perfect in my eyes.

  The first issue I wish to raise is how much of a period record this sounds like. Any one of these songs, particularly the second track titled "Jenny", sounds like they could have come right off the radio in 81 or 82. While this is not a bad thing, I would really like to see this style taken to the next level, instead it being considered the better move to try and replicate the sound as much as possible.

  Secondly, some of the songs are a little cheesy sounding. One of the things I liked the most about Interpols 'Turn On the Bright Lights' is it's consistancy in tone. It may be a bit brooding for some, but at least it's got a flow. Stellastar have a few smart and intelligent songs, but they also have the kind of radio friendly fare that has the tendency to overshadow the more complex work. Now we all want our bands to make it so we can keep enjoying the music they make, and I guess time will tell with these guys as to how far they go. But in this current industry one radio hit can be the downfall of an entire band in terms of thier artistic leanings. Call it going commercial, buying in, or selling out, the potential is there with this band, and I for one dont want to see that happen.

  On to the positive! This band has a great grasp of what they do. I wont go as far as to say they have a grasp on their own unique identity, bu they do an admirable job of melding together many early eighties post-punk type bands and fusing them into a consistant sound. I love the voice in singer Shawn Christensen. Again, we do have that kind of pseudo Ian Curtis thing that's been going around, but he is absolutely commited to every song and that means something to me. (editors note: I hear more of a Dave Vanian warble in the vocals than Ian Curtis, and Micheal missed the comparisons to the "Pixies" as well) At the very least the guy can carry a tune. Musically the band as a whole melds well. The guitars ping-pong off of each other to create a web of sound that traps you quite effectively, reminding me of The Chameleons U.K. in a way. The bass is pretty much flat in most of the songs, lacking any real sense of bounce, but it does a comendable job of holding down the songs. The drums seem to drag at times, and indeed the drummer often seems he's trying to work over his head, but he knows when to hold back and let it ride out which is exactly what a drummer in this kind of band needs to do. There aren't any standout musicians on this record, but the band as a whole works well together and understands what they want to sound like.

  The album as a whole stays pretty much up tempo and feels a lot like the more energetic moments on My Bloody Valentines 'Loveless'. There are a couple of standout songs on the record, but the overal experiance is a positive one. It's not the kind of record that's going to get bette the more you dissect, but it's a fun listen and shows a group that has great potential to become something. For now, we have to hope they find that and deliver that stellar and classic third album all great bands produce.

Standout songs:
In the Walls

Recommend: Yes, based on fun factor and band potential

Stellastarr's Homepage"